Residents in Collingwood, Ont. opposes 2 planned developments on wetland

 Residents in Collingwood, Ont.  opposes 2 planned developments on wetland

A group of Collingwood, Ont. residents has erected a sign in the town to show its opposition to two planned developments on a southern Georgian Bay wetland.

One of the developers, however, says the group in the community northwest of Toronto is “misinformed.”

Katherine Holmes, a member of Friends of Silver Creek Wetland, said on Sunday that the group erected the sign to draw attention to the impact that the developments, Bridgewater on Georgian Bay and Huntingwood Trails, will have on the Silver Creek Wetland and its flood plain .

“Silver Creek Wetland? Destroyed! Save it from Developers Now!,” reads the sign on private property on Highway 26, east of Gray County Road 21.

Group members gathered around the sign on Canada Day to display homemade placards that read: “Honk if you agree.” The sign was set up on Thursday night.

“We did this to raise awareness and to let the developers and the Town of Collingwood and the Government of Ontario know that we are going to keep fighting,” Holmes said.

“There’s lots of land to develop. I don’t think that any of us are against development at all because obviously, affordable housing has become an issue. Densification makes more sense to me in Collingwood. There’s a condominium going up in Collingwood right now . Why can’t there be more of that? We understand there needs to be development, but where is what’s the critical part of all this.”

Holmes, who moved to Collingwood from Toronto, said the wetland is important for flood prevention and biodiversity. It has a salmon and trout habitat. The Silver Creek system is part of the town’s natural heritage. The wetland stores carbon and protects the shoreline.

“At the end of the day, it’s a wetland. And the surrounding area should not be developed because that feeds into the wetland,” she said.

The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority says on its website that the Silver Creek wetland complex is a wetland that has been deemed provincially significant. It is made up of swamp forest, thicket swamp and marsh. It is a Great Lakes coastal marsh that supports a number of plants and animals, it says.

The Nottawasaga Valley Conservation Authority says on its website that the Silver Creek wetland complex is a wetland that has been deemed provincially significant. It is made up of swamp forest, thicket swamp and marsh. (Katherine Holmes)

Consulate Development Group, based in Mississauga, Ont., is planning to build the Bridgewater on Georgian Bay development.

According to the town’s website, the Bridgewater development would be located north of Highway 26 West, bounded by Bartlett Boulevard and Princeton Shores Boulevard. The developer proposes to build a subdivision of a total of 655 dwelling units, consisting of 539 townhouse dwellings, all three storey, and 116 apartment units in one four storey building. The plan would involve a rezoning.

Huntingwood Trails (Collingwood) Ltd., meanwhile, is planning to build a subdivision south of Highway 26 West, but the development is under appeal to the Ontario Land Tribunal.

According to the town’s website, the Huntingwood Trails development would be located on 21 hectares of 5 Silver Creek Drive property, in between the Silver Glen Preserve condo development on the east and the Forest Subdivision to the west. The developer proposes to build 100 lots, consisting of 86 single detached dwellings and 14 semi-detached dwellings.

The Ontario Land Tribunal has scheduled 25 days of hearings that are set to start August 8 to determine the fate of the Huntingwood Trails development.

Two thirds of site being preserved, developer says

John Sorokolit, president and principal shareholder of Consulate Development Group, said on Monday that the entire site is roughly 126 hectares north of Highway 26 on the shores of Georgian Bay.

The company is proposing to build about 700 residential units on 37 hectares of what are called the east lands and wants to develop 20 hectares on two pockets of the 90 hectares known as the west lands.

Sorokolit said the Friends of Silver Creek Wetland are misguided because nearly 74 per cent of the site is being preserved as environmentally sensitive areas. It’s not true that the company is developing the wetland, he said.

“We’ve met all of the conditions. We do regular updates,” he said.

“We’re actually developing the upland areas around the wetland, and we’re going to great lengths to preserve the wetland and implement all sorts of mitigating measures to enhance the wetland. I think the problem, in these situations, is that the general public tends to be misinformed.”

Sorokolit said the town administration should have done a better job of educating the public about the planned development.

“I think that the sad part of it is that they’re really misinformed as to either what we’re doing, or what we’re preserving. … Maybe the town is partly to blame for not moving the process forward and delivering the information to the public.”

The company submitted a rezoning application to the town in 2018 to build the residential units. Because that application has not been dealt with by the town in more than three years, the matter has been appealed to the Ontario Land Tribunal but a date has not been set, he said.

Developments are ‘long standing matters,’ mayor says

Keith Hull, the acting mayor of Collingwood, said in a statement on Monday that the “developable portions of the properties” have been confirmed as being outside of the Silver Creek Wetland.

Hull said the appeals to the Ontario Land Tribunal are not about whether the developments should occur, but how they should occur in a way that address public concerns about such issues as flooding, storm water management, traffic, buffering and protecting the environment.

“Council has heard the residents’ concerns loud and clear through many letters, a petition, news articles, and personal conversations and we absolutely agree that there should be no development within the Silver Creek Wetland,” he said.

“However, what we are grappling with is when development is proposed next to the wetland on lands that have been designated for future growth and demonstrated through previous processes as not containing significant natural heritage features,” he added.

“It is critical that lands adjacent to the Silver Creek Wetland be sensitively developed to ensure that there are no unintended consequences on the wetland features of functions.”

Over 30,000 sign petition against developments

Friends of Silver Creek Wetland have organized an online petition against the developments that has garnered more than 30,000 signatures. The petition calls on the Ontario government and town to stop the developments and protect the wetland permanently from development.

“South Georgian Bay’s last remaining intact coastal wetland is being threatened like never before by rampant overdevelopment,” the petition reads.

“Time is of the essence and the costs are very real: the destruction of endangered wildlife habitat, heightened risks for severe flooding, and the permanent loss of our natural heritage.”

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